In its most simple form, gamification marketing is all about introducing a fun and competitive element to your marketing strategy that encourages users to perform a certain task or challenge that engages, grows a fanbase, sparks conversations, and builds brand loyalty.
There are many ways in which gamification can be applied beyond straightforward competitions that ask users to “like” or “share” something to win. It’s far more about creating an experience that users find enjoyable and memorable – and perhaps even challenging and addictive.
“Gamification is 75% Psychology and 25% Technology.” – Gamification by Design co-author, Gabe Zichermann
A lot of the reason that gamification is successful is due to the way we’re wired. Humans like to be challenged – we love games – and as social creatures, most of us enjoying letting others know how great we are at something.
Some of the types of gamification commonly used in marketing are:
Drink five drinks, get a free drink. Spend money, get a voucher when you rack a certain number of points. Everyone loves a reward, don’t they?
Example: Paperchase has a points-based reward programme with extra goodies on your birthday (just as well for me as I seem to spend half my salary in there).
The motivation to win need not necessarily be prize based – it could be a challenge that instead rewards the user with kudos (i.e. leaderboard, treasure hunt, points, badges).
Example: Airbnb runs monthly competitions, giving users the chance to stay in exclusive locations around the world.
Giving users a platform to be heard might start with a competition to gather ideas, with the final decision being placed back in the hands of Joe Public. People like to feel their opinion matters.
Example: Remember how Walkers Crisps let you choose a new disgusting flavour? Yep, that.
Challenge users to prove they are the ultimate fan by getting the most correct answers, or use questions that let users find out what type of whatever they are – simple, easy to set up, and effective.
Example: Buzzfeed is the God of the ‘what am I’ quiz format. Here’s a Barbie one, so you can finally discover what kind of Barbie you are.
Not a game or a competition per se, but an opportunity to show off, for example, ‘Show us how good you are at using our contouring product’ or ‘Upload a video of your best strut in our high heels’. Many people like to be acknowledged by others on social media, and by sharing this type of content with their peers, it introduces a slightly competitive element too.
Example: That really annoying TalkTalk X-Factor BopHeads ident
Think big ideas, not big budget
Some major brands have taken the concept of gamification and gone bananas with it with varying degrees of complexity:
Magnum launched the ‘Pleasure Hunt’ (isn’t as filthy as it sounds) – an online game inspired by highly addictive, old-school platformers like Mario and Frogger. To align the game with their brand, a lovely lady, controlled by the user runs around the internet collecting as many chocolate balls as possible, and at the end, the user can share their score to challenge a friend. This campaign is yonks old but it’s still often referenced as one of the best creative digital campaigns. It was well executed, with a robust social media strategy to bolster the campaign, and was incredibly successful; but clearly, this did not come cheap.
At the other end of the spectrum, another major confectionary brand, Mars, launched a simple campaign to promote M&Ms. It was a ‘Where’s Wally?’ style challenge, where Pretzel Guy (he’s an American thing, I don’t know what he is) was hidden in an image of lots and lots of M&Ms.
The concept was incredibly simple, but it generated a huge number of social shares, doing a very effective job of introducing the new pretzel flavoured M&Ms in the states.
For businesses that want to introduce gamification into their marketing strategy, it’s best to test the water first. Start with small competitions, challenges, and quizzes that reward users differently and see what works best for your audience. If there is a social element (and there should be), analyse where users share and how they comment on the experience to feed into future campaign ideas.